Leicester Tigers and Argentina prop Marcos Ayerza has announced his retirement from professional rugby with immediate effect.
The loosehead, who spent the last 11 seasons at Welford Road, has been advised to hang up his boots following an injury to his back.
Ayerza joined Tigers in the summer of 2006 from the Cardinal Newman club in Argentina and went on to become one of the world’s leading front-rowers in nearly 250 games with the club and in 66 Test appearances.
As a Tiger, Ayerza made his 200th starting appearance in the opening home game of the 2016/17 season and has played in 246 first-team games as part of a squad that won four Premiership titles – he played in Premiership Finals in six successive years at Twickenham. He also played in two European Cup Finals and has been part of two Anglo-Welsh Cup-winning squads.
Ayerza received the club’s Outstanding Service award at the end of the 2013/14 season and was named Player of the Year at the supporters’ awards in 2014/15 when he also enjoyed a testimonial year, during which he played for both sides in a match between Tigers and Argentina as they fine-tuned their World Cup preparations.
The 34-year-old retires with immediate effect. He made his final Tigers appearance in the win over Harlequins at Welford Road in November 2016.
Ayerza played in two under-21 World Cups before making his Test debut for Argentina against South Africa in December 2004 and collected a bronze medal in the 2007 Rugby World Cup as well as playing in the following two tournaments and in the Pumas’ early campaigns in the Rugby Championship alongside Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
He said: “I have been extremely proud to represent Leicester Tigers and Argentina for so many seasons and enjoyed every minute of that long journey.
“Leicester Tigers is an amazing club and I have been very fortunate to play here for the last 11 seasons, playing in so many big occasions and with so many great players.
“It is very sad when an injury suddenly finishes your career but I can only be thankful to God first to have allowed me to experience this great journey, taking me by his hand. Also I want to thank everyone who was next to me all the way: my parents, for making me play this amazing game; my great wife Mercedes and daughters who were always there in the good and not so good times; the coaches, physios, conditioners, doctors, staff, supporters and everyone involved in every team that I was lucky enough to be part of.
“I will take with me many great memories experienced by playing this great game of rugby but more importantly the best thing to take with me is all those great people I met on this journey along the way.
“I’ll miss a lot but it is time to face new challenges in my life, turn over the page, as hard as that is, and I wish the Tigers all the very best for the future.”
Tigers chairman Peter Tom CBE said: “Marcos has been an outstanding representative of the club on and off the field in more than 10 years at Tigers.
“He has been at the very heart of the Tigers squad for the last 11 seasons and continually worked hard on his game while also assisting those around him.
“Marcos has had the respect of team-mates and rivals around the rugby world, as well as from the pundits and journalists who follow the game closely. He has been without doubt one of the leading players in his position in the world game.
“The affection in which he is held here is evident in his interaction with supporters at Welford Road and in the support for his testimonial events as well as from within the playing squad.
“We wish Marcos and his family well for the future. They will always be part of the Tigers Family and welcome at Welford Road.”
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